Tobernalt Holy Well

Wakeman illustrated the Holy Well at Tobernalt on 23 July 1882 when it comprised of the mass rock and well. At the end of the 19th century another altar was added by the convent of the Sisters of Mercy, which was made from stones collected from the edge of Lough Gill.

Many alterations occurred in 1921 through the work of the locals and Fr Divine of Carraroe. The great storm 'Debbie' destroyed much of the site in 1961 when two large trees fell. Restorations, new shrines and the construction of the small bridge were made that year.

Further alterations have been added subsequently. The stations are unusually laid out anti-clockwise around the well. This is most irregular as stations are performed clockwise or deosil in Irish - the same direction the sun moves.

Like most holy wells it is difficult to say when pilgrimages began, as many could pre-date Christianity. Tobernalt is dedicated to St Patrick who is said to have visited the site and knelt at the large rectangular block of stones adjacent to the well and put his hand on the rock as he knelt. Pilgrims still touch the rock, where the saint placed his hand, and indentations of finger marks have been worn into it over the years. This rock is associated with being a penal mass rock, where illegal masses were said during the late 18th century penal laws. A replica penal cross now stands on the modern altar see also St Attracta's Well.

The well was visited to seek a defence against cholera during the Sligo epidemic in the early 19th century, and today it is known for curing eye complaints and mental disorders. Its pattern day, the day of the main gathering at the well, is Garland Sunday - the last Sunday in July. This marks the beginning of Lughnasa, a harvest festival that may date back to the Iron Age (c.500BC-450AD) because of its associations with Lugh, the Celtic god of the sun. The site today has rag trees, with one particular tree being covered in beads, rags and offerings. Pilgrims would leave these behind as a token for a cure.

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